So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk. One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener. One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal
So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character. What do they look like, what is their background, etc. All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character. Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs). It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one. However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way. It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.
Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally. For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider. His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence. Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.
As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story). While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts. To help me, I printed out several character sheets. My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent. I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.
Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try. It’s something to shoot for anyway.
- Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
- Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
- Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)